Relationship Psychotherapists Say: Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater!

About 30-60 percent of married people are unfaithful at some point in their lives. Although there’re all types of circumstances or reasons unique to each couple that make one partner cheat for the first time, experts claim that there’re a few reasons why people cheat again.

Here is what really happens to the brain when someone cheats on their partner more than once:

A psychologist at University College London, Neil Garrett, along with Tali Sharot, Stephanie Lazzarro, and Dan Ariely, carried out a study to detect what really happens to the brain when someone cheats on their partner more than once.

The psychologists measured the brain’s activity by using fMRI scans while partners were performing a simple task to detect if partners became more dishonest as they kept playing the game as well as detect how their brains responded to a lie. In addition, the psychologists actually measured the amygdala, i.e., a part of the brain that plays an important role in emotions.

They told one participant to advise their partner about how many coins there were in a jar (the view of their partner was obscured so they could not tell themselves).

Moreover, in some cases, a participant would be rewarded for making their partner overestimate the amount; whereas in other cases, the participant would be rewarded for such a lie at the expense of the participant. Also, in case the participant lied, both partners would be rewarded.

The psychologists concluded that over time participants lied more often, except in situations when they would not directly benefit from the lie. They also concluded that a potent factor that keeps people from cheating is their emotional reaction to it or how bad they feel about it. But, the adaptation process decreases this reaction, thus letting them cheat more.

Additionally, serial cheaters felt bad about cheating at first, but have cheated too much, so that they have adapted to it and do not feel bad about it.

Here is what happens after a partner detects they have been cheated on:

Esther Perel, relationship psychotherapist, explains what happens after a partner detects they have been cheated on. Perel thinks that even despite the higher likelihood of a repeat offense, a relationship could still thrive after an affair.

Even though some affairs are break-ups, others may be make-ups. In addition, the relationship, which comes out may be more honest, deeper, and stronger than the one that existed before as partners eventually step up.

According to Perel, it is worse for the men. She also notes that partners should determine for themselves the choices that they’ll make as well as the consequences thereof. Whole lives are actually intertwined with a marriage. It’s not only the relationship between the partners. It’s actually economics, grandchildren, lives of children, social networks, and more.

It’s not that she does not comprehend the magnitude of the pain from infidelity; she admits that it is a traumatic and life-changing experience for anyone. However, Perel thinks that cheating isn’t the first breach in trust in any relationship; it occurs long after many other aspects of a relationship have been neglected. She points out that those aspects should also be addressed (not only cheating) to restore the relationship and it takes too much work.

Thanks for reading!